An A-10C Thunderbolt II of the United States Air Force dropped three training bombs after being hit by a bird near Suwannee Springs, Florida.

The aircraft involved in the incident belongs to the 23rd Fighter Group. It was on a training mission near Moody Air Force Base, southern Georgia, when it was hit by a bird. The impact caused the “inadvertent release of three BDU-33s,” according to the 23d Wing Command Post. No damage or injuries were reported.

Painted in blue like all inert ordnance, the BDU-33 is a training munition weighing 11 kilograms (25 pounds). Also known as the Mark 76, it is supposed to imitate a 230-kg (500-pound) M1a-82 unguided bomb. While being inert, it still contains a smoke cartridge. This pyrotechnic charge, located in the nose, produces a white smoke on impact (and a flash for night training) to help judge the accuracy of a drop. Therefore, the 23rd Wing Public Affairs advises civilians not to touch bombs in case they are found.

AeroTime reached out to the USAF to know the condition of the A-10C. For now, no information has been made public about the extent of the damage that the bird strike caused to the aircraft.

In a similar incident, a Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon, part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, accidentally fired a live air-to-air missile during a training mission over Estonia, on August 7, 2018. The investigation carried out by the Estonian Ministry of Defense concluded that the incident was “a result of the pilot’s failure to comply with the safety rules and regulations”.

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Spanish Ministry of Defense announced on August 7, 2018, that one of its Eurofighter Typhoons accidentally fired a live air-to-air missile during a training mission over Estonia.
 

Hard to replace

The A-10 Thunderbolt II nicknamed the “Warthog” is a ground attack aircraft made by Fairchild Republic Company. It is specialized in close air support of land forces. Sometimes described as a “flying tank”, the A-10 is known for the iconic sound of its GAU-8 Avenger autocannon firing Depleted Uranium anti-armor ammunition. Another distinct characteristic is the titanium “bathtub” protecting the pilot, which allows for the plane to operate even after sustaining heavy damage. Much like the F-22 Raptor, the A-10 is only operated by the US Air Force and has never been exported.

Its phasing out has long been discussed, and the plan to see the F-35 take over its role has created much controversy. Until now, the schedule was for all A-10s to be retired by 2022. However, Donald Trump has recently announced that this plan could be disrupted. On June 30, 2019, during a visit to Osan Air Base, South Korea, he declared as reported by the Air Force Times “it’s just a very great machine, and we’re looking at ways that maybe we can keep it around a little bit longer”.

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The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is finally going up against the battle-proven A-10 close air support attack plane for the long-promised close air support fly-off. But the tests, as designed, are unlikely to reveal anything of real value about the F-35’s ability to support ground troops in realistic combat situations—which the F-35, as the presumptive replacement for the A-10, must be able to demonstrate.